Martha’s Falls, Alabama

Northeast Alabama has a number of waterfall surprises. One location that is a gem is Little River Canyon National Preserve. It’s a beautiful place to visit. The park is not as big as, let’s say, other canyons. Still, there is a 23 mile parkway/road that follows the canyon, providing awesome views.

The main waterfall is Little River Falls, which doesn’t require much hiking and is very close to a main parking area. Martha’s Falls requires a hike that starts at Little River Falls. On the national park service map, there does seem to be another trailhead to Martha’s Falls, but I don’t see a parking area there. The hike is 1 mile one-way, and I recorded it as being a moderate hike, which means there may have been some elevation change, but it wasn’t overly strenuous.

Martha’s Falls is wide, which is the reason that this waterfall is worthwhile to visit. It’s not tall, though. I have read that this waterfall, which used to be called Little Falls, is a popular swimming spot on warm spring and summer days. I visited in early January, which meant that the parking area was not busy at all. The NPS mentions that on those spring/summer days, the parking area can fill very quickly.

In the park, there is also a much narrower but taller waterfall, Grace’s High Falls. DeSoto State Park is also very close by, and there are numerous waterfalls in the park, with the most impressive being DeSoto Falls.

Directions:

  1. If driving along I-59, you could either take exit 218 or 222 to get to the falls. I think I took exit 222 as I was heading south, and turned left onto US-11.
  2. Drive along US-11 to the intersection of US-11 and AL-35. Turn left onto AL-35, and then turn left after a few blocks to stay on AL-35.
  3. Once on this route, it’s a pretty easy drive to the falls. The parking area for the falls is found on AL-35 just after the intersection with AL-176 (which is the scenic drive). The signage for the falls makes it relatively difficult to miss.
  4. At the parking area, you can see Little River Falls and then follow the Little River Falls trail south to Martha’s Falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Length of Hike: 2 miles round trip
Height: 4′

Martha’s Falls in January 2016

Where in the World is Martha’s Falls?

DeSoto Falls, Alabama

DeSoto Falls edit

DeSoto Falls in December 2009

I visited DeSoto Falls almost ten years ago, and now am just coming to write about the most impressive falls in DeSoto State Park. (I’ve written about the four smaller waterfalls in the park many years ago, comically enough.) So I’m now getting to the namesake falls.

DeSoto Falls is a really beautiful waterfall in northeastern Alabama. At 104′, it is one of the taller waterfalls in the state. Since it’s been so long since I visited, I don’t remember all of the specifics, but I do remember it being an easy waterfall to visit. There was a short hike from the parking lot to the falls. You’re then rewarded with a big drop surrounded by beautiful geological features. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely one of the waterfalls you should be visiting.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, take exit 231.
  2. Head southeast on AL-40 toward Hammondville/Valley Head.
  3. Turn right onto US-11 for a short ways.
  4. Turn left onto AL-117 south and drive for 3 miles through Valley Head. You will turn sharply right onto an apparently unnamed road. If you end up in Mentone, you’ve gone too far.
  5. Turn left toward County Road 613 and then continue on that road. You should end up at the DeSoto Falls Picnic Area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 104′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is DeSoto Falls?

Laurel Falls, Alabama

Laurel Falls in December 2009

DeSoto State Park is most widely known for DeSoto Falls, which is an impressive waterfall in northeast Alabama. In a different area of the park, there are a number of other waterfalls that are smaller, but very enjoyable nonetheless. One of those is Laurel Falls.

The hike to Laurel Falls is very enjoyable. You first start down a boardwalk that leads to the Azalea Cascades. After passing the cascades, you begin your journey to Laurel Falls. It is not a difficult trail, but I do remember it being slightly confusing. Follow the red/orange diamonds to prevent yourself from getting lost.

After about 1/2 a mile, you’ll come to a rock on the ground that is pained with the name Laurel Falls. Take the short trail to the falls, and you’ll be impressed. The falls along this creek do seem to be highly dependent on the amount of rainfall. When I visited in December, the weather was amazingly comfortable, and the falls were flowing. I’m not sure that I would want to do this in the depths of summer!

Directions:

  1. From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
  2. Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
  3. You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
  4. From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down County Road 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
  5. Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk and park here.
  6. Head down the boardwalk past the Azalea Cascades.
  7. To your right, there should be a trail heading uphill that is has red/orange (blue trail may also get you there) diamonds posted on the trees. Follow this trail.
  8. Pass the sign for the campground, continuing on the red/orange trail.
  9. After a ways (1/2 of a mile?), you’ll pass a rock on the ground painted with the name Laurel Falls. Follow the short detour to the falls. If you keep hiking along this trail, you’ll also end up at Lost Falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate, in December, there were a number of large trees blocking parts of the trail)
Height: 8′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Laurel Falls?

Lost Falls, Alabama

Lost Falls in late December 2009

Lost Falls isn’t truly “lost”. Obviously somebody has found it. As you’re hiking to the falls, though, you may feel that you could get lost finding it. Not that the hike is all that difficult, but the trail meanders. You’ll walk through mini-cascades (you won’t get wet). You’ll pass by a number of points that will make you THINK you’re near a waterfall, but you’re probably not…at least not a significant waterfall.

The trail leading to the falls is marked with red/orange markers. (You may also be able to find these falls on the blue trail.) This definitely does help, but you’ll need to pay attention. It’s so easy to get caught up in the beautiful forest around you, only to find out that you’re not where you thought you were. The two falls along the trail, Laurel Falls and Lost Falls, are both marked with painted rocks…an interesting little touch. At least there’s something indicating you’re on the right path. I’ve been to some waterfalls where I’ve gotten much more lost.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
  2. Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
  3. You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
  4. From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down County Road 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
  5. Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk and park here.
  6. Head down the boardwalk past the Azalea Cascades.
  7. To your right, there should be a trail heading uphill that is has red/orange diamonds posted on the trees. Follow this trail. (As mentioned, you may be able to follow the blue trail as well, and there is a Lost Falls Trail Head on the opposite side of this blue trail.)
  8. Pass the sign for the campground, continuing on the red/orange trail.
  9. After a ways (1/2 of a mile?), you’ll pass a rock on the ground painted with the name Laurel Falls. Keep going.
  10. After another 1/2 mile (?), you’ll end up at another rock for Lost Falls. Take that side-trail, which is rather short, down to the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (in December, there were a number of large trees blocking parts of the trail)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: ~2.5 miles round-trip from Azalea Boardwalk

Where in the World is Lost Falls?

Azalea Cascades, Alabama

The beginning of the Azalea Cascades

The Azalea Cascades might be the most unassuming of the waterfalls in DeSoto State Park in Alabama. They are not as tall or as wide as the other falls in the park, but they have a gentle beauty nonetheless. The Azalea Cascades are also very easy to access, and the hike along the boardwalk is very enjoyable, even in late December. The cascades continue for a distance down the creek, though they are difficult to photograph, as rocks block the view along the way.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
  2. Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
  3. You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
  4. From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down County Road 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
  5. Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk (Blue Trail) and park here.
  6. Head down the boardwalk to the Azalea Cascades.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 6′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Azalea Cascades?

Valley Head Falls, Alabama

This is a smaller set of cascades that I believe is near the town of Valley Head in Alabama. I could be wrong about that considering that I wasn’t exactly sure where I was at that moment. I was heading toward toward I-59 after visiting DeSoto State Park. I was heading east, and had earlier noticed that there was a smaller group of waterfalls just off the road. There is a park right near these falls that have parking, so I pulled off and took a few pictures. It was getting later, so there wasn’t much light to take a picture. Even so, it was still a pretty area.

Directions:

  1. I believe this waterfall can be found off of AL-117 just west of the intersection with US-11. There should be a park in that general vicinity. If you’re heading toward DeSoto State Park from US-59, you may end up passing by the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 6′
Length of Hike: roadside

Waterfall/cascade in Valley Head

Where in the World is Unnamed Falls?

Indian Falls, Alabama

Indian Falls

There are multiple waterfalls to be found in DeSoto State Park, with DeSoto Falls the largest and most widely known of the waterfalls. Indian Falls is the second largest of the falls in the area and one that should not be missed when visiting the area.

As with DeSoto Falls, Indian Falls is very easy to view. From the parking area, it’s just a short walk to the the falls. To get a better view, you will have to maneuver down the side of a hill, though it is not that bad.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
  2. Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
  3. You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
  4. From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down County Road 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
  5. Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk (Blue Trail) and park here.
  6. Instead of heading toward the boardwalk, turn 180 degrees and look for the fenced in sewage treatment plant. You’ll see a sign indicating Indian Falls.
  7. Cross the road, and follow the arrows, which lead you directly to the waterfall. It’s pretty hard to miss.
  8. You’ll have to cross the creek, where you’ll then have to maneuver down the hill to get the best view of the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Indian Falls?